A New Normal

Story - Ryan M. - as written by Jason Granger

Ryan is different. Considering his personality, energy, and passionate hunger for life and food, that's about as inclusive as we'll get as we attempt to look at his life's story. He is different. While his childhood was comparably normal, the past 3 years of his life have been anything but that. As his friend, co-worker and complete opposite, I've had the privilege of watching him use that different-ness to navigate his journey here at The Harbor. As our videographer and editor, he has been documenting the stories of others this month. But I think we can benefit from Ryan's own story. What is Ryan's story? I asked him a few questions in our shared, 8ftx8ft office to find out.

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Tell me about your decision to work at The Harbor.

Honestly, I thought it was a dream come true. I remember persuading my wife to take the job because comically, it was really up to her. If she took the job as Administrative Assistant, then I got the job. If she denied, well then they really didn't "need" me - for now! I always knew that I was called to ministry, so to be offered a job at my local church was amazing.

Did the unknowns about this job make you hesitant to take it?

Sorta, because I accepted this job not knowing that I would become such a big part in the Creative Department and A/V. The job that I initially accepted was more along the lines of doing a bunch of random, manual labor stuff around the church. If something needed cleaning, I did it. If something needed to be installed, I installed it, etc. My job title was Gopher with a capital G.

Explain to us the difference between the responsibilities you have on this job because you’re passionate about them, the ones you have to do, and the ones that you have no prior knowledge about.

The things I am most passionate about are the original, creative video shoots we do month to month. That is by far my most enjoyed responsibility. Being able to sit down and let God just dump a bunch of creative ideas on you and then plan to execute them is amazing. I love seeing the growth of this Creative Department in every video we do.

Now just because it's a video doesn't mean I always love it. Doing video editing and such can be just as a pain in the butt as being asked to arrange something or carry out a plan that makes NO SENSE to you whatsoever. I'm a logical person, so if it doesn't make sense, I shut down. I've learned to just say yes, though. 

The really crazy thing is that I have zero prior knowledge to just about everything I do here at The Harbor. Yeah, sure I made like 1 or 2 videos 6 years ago, but that was with a little dinky handy cam you buy from Walmart or something.  I never dreamed of working with actual videographer equipment and being trained by my good friend Jordan Beard. (Shout out to my buddy who took this crazy kid in as a portage.) So I never knew videography; I never knew video editing; I never knew how to be a sound technician; I never knew how to live stream video, or work a drone, or fix a 30 year old AC unit with an old school water cooling tower. I knew just about nothing as of a year and a half ago. 

But now you do. What motivated you to learn?

 I mean, I just got put into the position and I was forced to learn. There's a part of me that forces me to learn, to do something well - excellence motives me to learn. Have I screwed it up sometimes? Heck yes. But that doesn't force me to quit. I'm not a quitter. Ask Audrey. Or you know. I'm pretty headstrong.

What is the relationship between your obedience to take this job and the way your own story has played out over the course of the past 2 years?

My life has been richly blessed with knowledge of so many different areas. I remember saying to myself as I took my final steps on my college campus, "I'm really going to miss this, and I would love to come back just to learn more." I love learning! Well, God always has the better plan in mind, and apparently it wasn't my plan to become some kind of molecular biology research technician. Because now I'm in a place where I am learning every day, and I'm getting better at what I love at a rapid pace. I give God the credit for that. 

What have you gained from your job here - specifically the responsibility of documenting others’ stories?

I have gained the most gratifying fulfillment. I have to give a little back story for you to understand how this has been so fulfilling to me. Emotions cannot save you or change you, but I do believe that they play a huge part in the jump start of change. If you don't get passionate about something then why would you ever pursue it? So that's why I love video. Like I said before, I made 1 or 2 videos a few years before I came on this job, but nothing special. But when I made those videos I said to myself that I want to make such impactful works of art that people's emotions are stirred and God can then begin the work of change in their lives. People have walls, and my goal is to make a video that really speaks to someone, and through it they put their wall down for just a moment. Because who knows what God can do in just that one single moment. So not too long ago the Creative Department here at The Harbor made a really cool video called "TOGETHER." The next day I got a call from a good friend who said that she cried when she saw it. That has never happened before. It was such a landmark for me to get that first emotional response from something I created. And then we went on ahead and started making these personal testimony videos called "Come Alive" and we have gotten more views on these videos than any other video we have ever pushed out. I watched families, friends, and even strangers crying under the power of what God has done through these individuals' lives. That's the moment. That's what brings such joy and fulfillment in my life - seeing God use my gifts and talents to stir the emotions of others so they can have a God-moment.

You’ve had to help other’s find a way to communicate their story, the moment they came alive in a few short sentences. Can you pinpoint YOUR moment?

I would say that I'm still waiting for my moment, and then my leaders would say to quit being so hard on myself. With life, that's how I feel though, but as far as the creative process is concerned, I definitely know my moment. We had been doing videos for almost a year at this point and yes it was fun, but I wasn't seeing the change in people's lives like I knew I was created for. So one day, I called together the Creative Team: Audrey, Jason, and myself, (I know, big team huh? haha) and I said I think we really need to start praying over our creative process before we even brainstorm about the videos. They agreed, and we all prayed in our little 8x8ft office. Two weeks later, we pushed out the most emotionally impactful video that The Harbor Creative Team has ever pushed out. It was in that moment that I knew God was saying, "I was just waiting for you to ask me for help."

You define normalcy as consistency in some instances, status-quo in most. Talk to us about how you lead a normal (read: consistent) life, but still let your personality and energy express itself.

Here's my consistency on-the-job: Shoot Sunday sermon footage; pull the footage and edit it on Monday; push out audio and video to website and podcasts; go shoot Video Announcements; edit Video Announcements; test Video Announcements on the big screen; run sound for Monday Night Prayer on Monday; help facilitate small group with the guys on Tuesday; be Ryan at Legacy Night on Wednesdays; attend and help with Worship Practice on Thursdays; brainstorm upcoming series bumper videos; get everything together for the big shoot; go have fun shooting the video; edit, rinse and repeat! There is the consistency.

But thank God for an amazing pastor who is helping me get to "my moment." Because let's face it, no matter if you love something or not, if you do the same things over and over again, it can become mundane and life-sucking instead of life-giving. But Pastor Marvin always reminds me why I am doing this. I'm not doing this for a paycheck, and I'm not doing this to please someone. I'm doing this because at my core, I love God and I love people. And when I make it about God and the people I serve, and not about myself, ironically, I get to come out in energetic explosions that people know me so well for. I thrive off of spontaneity, and while my amazing wife, friends, and pastor are all trying to get structure in my life (and I need it), I still love to just randomly cut up in the office, at Legacy Night on Wednesday nights, or just any time I get the opportunity. Oh and a random adventure to the mountains for a weekend trip would be amazing!

What’s your counsel for a guy like me, who is secure in the consistency of a normal life?

Don't be afraid to let adventure in. Prime example: I don't like street performers in New Orleans. I don't think most people do. They can be creepy, and our first thought toward them probably isn't the most positive. But one day my wife and I got trapped by one, and we were forced to watch this guy do his street act. By the end of it, I wish I had more money to give the guy! He was brilliant! It is one of the most solid date memories that I have had with my wife. So while I still wouldn't recommend seeking out every street performer, as some of them could very well be the creeper type, I would recommend just being open to something that is completely off the wall for you. Who knows, you may learn something and enjoy the mess out of it.

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There you go: a look into Ryan's head and his story and how it's playing out relative to personality and his obedience to take the opportunities that God has put in front of him. As his friend, I admire both his willingness to learn and desire to see excellence come alive in every area of his life. It shows me that normal is not defined by consistency or marked by security. Put next to the standard of Ryan, normal is obedience; it's submission to the story that God is telling through your life. Is Ryan different? Yes. But Ryan is normal.